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31 Mar 08

Spain Holds Staff From EU Kosovo Mission

Pristina _ Spain will not send personnel to the EU’s law and order mission in Kosovo, until legal questions over how it will replace the UN administration are answered.

Spanish Foreign Minister Angel Moratinos told a meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers in Slovenia over the weekend that Madrid will not send its contingent of 15-20 staff to the 2,000-strong EULEX mission until there has been a formal transfer of powers from the United Nations.

Madrid says the agreed EU text setting out the conditions for the mission states that there should be a direct transfer from the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, to the EU.

But UNMIK has been slow to respond amid protests from Belgrade, and key ally Russia.

Serbia has branded EULEX illegal, claiming that under UN Security Council Resolution 1244 passed at the end of the 1998-1999 conflict between Serb forces and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority, only the UN has the right to administer Kosovo on Serbia’s behalf.

Most EU states are prepared to deploy their police personnel on the basis of an invitation from the Kosovo government, but that would be awkward for Spain and potentially for other countries that have not recognised Kosovo.

Spain is one of nine EU countries which has not recognised Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders February 17 declaration of independence from Serbia.

Spain is home to various national groups, including Basques and Catalans and claims Kosovo’s independence sets a precedent for other separatist movements worldwide..

EULEX will have a mostly advisory function but also includes some anti-riot units and is set to start by mid-June as planned.

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